New budget could delay some units' relocation to States
February 2, 2007
WASHINGTON — A House budget bill designed to tie up loose ends for fiscal 2007 funding could delay plans to move some troops stationed overseas back to the United States, Army officials said.
But Democrats downplayed those concerns, saying the military will have plenty of funding for long-range basing plans.
The $463.5 billion measure, approved by the House late Wednesday, would set spending for a number of government agencies whose budgets weren’t finalized by the Republican-controlled Congress before the new session began this year.
In the bill are a number of military construction provisions, including $2.5 billion for projects related to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions.
That’s up about $1 billion from fiscal 2006 levels, but less than the $5.9 billion that had been outlined by Congress last fall for this year’s BRAC projects.
During debate on the bill, Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Army officials told lawmakers that $3.4 billion gap will be “devastating” to the service’s short-term plans.
“It could deprive servicemembers from having the training facilities they need to prepare for war,” she said. “It could create an uncertainty that their children will be able at attend adequate schools. And it could force our troops into temporary housing.”
Granger said Army officials identified the shift of 14,000 troops from Germany back to the United States as just one planned move which could be delayed under the budget bill.
“Cutting funding for this plan leaves our senior military leaders with a choice of moving just a few units or moving servicemembers and families onto bases with inadequate infrastructure,” she said.
Army officials could not provide further details of possible delays.
Democrats noted that the BRAC funding is an increase from fiscal 2006 and that military officials have other avenues to assign extra money to those projects.
“We will deal with the additional requests for BRAC in the supplementals, and you can bet they will get all of their money,” said Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
But defense officials have insisted they not only need full funding for military construction projects but also need the money soon, to avoid staff and project cuts. The president’s next supplemental request is expected to be released early next week, and could take months to gain final Congressional approval.
An Army spokesman said regardless of the funding situation, all of the BRAC plans outlined will “ultimately be executed in their entirety.”
The House budget bill still must be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president. Congress approved a new budget for the Defense Department last fall, and has moved other legislation to keep government agencies funded and operating at fiscal 2006 levels.